It was a long-awaited fulfillment for many of Europe’s best players, as the pandemic-postponed 2020 European Championships took place in Warsaw, Poland last week. The event featured the individual events and a gathering of the highest caliber players in the European Continent.
Team JOOLA was well-represented and we were pleased to see our athletes returning to the highest levels of competition and giving it their best on the table.
The first medal was won by Lubomir Pistej in the mixed doubles, with long-time partner Barbora Balazova. The two reached the final of the event, taking home a silver medal – a positive result for the World Ranked 6 pairing as they prepare for the biggest event of their careers in just a month’s time.
Pistej fought boldly through injury to push the team through to the final, with an exciting victory over the French pairing of Gauzy/Pavade in the semifinals. The Slovakian pairing faced a 2-1 deficit in the match before beating the pressure to win the fourth game a closely-contended 13-11. From there the momentum was in their favor, sealing out the match 11-4 in the deciding 5th game.
The final would prove a challenging task and the German pair of Dang and Mittelham were crowned champions. A great showing and an impressive medal to add to the career accolades of Lubomir Pistej, congratulations.
The star of the show was Team JOOLA’s Petrissa Solja, who took home two gold medals at the event.
In the Women’s Doubles event she paired with German compatriot Shan Xiaona to earn her second title in the event – having first won in 2013 with Sabine Winter.
The pair survived a scare in the quarterfinal stages against Luxembourg’s pairing of Sarah de Nutte and European veteran Ni Xia Lian. Trailing 2-1, they closed out two games at 11-5 to secure a place in the semifinal and guarantee a medal.
That same determination in the face of a losing scoreline would certainly come back to help them in the final, where they also fought back from 2-1 down against teammates Mittelham and Winter.
The fighting spirit and the combination of Shan’s short pips penhold and Solja’s left handed offensive game made for a highly entertaining final showdown, one which could have easily gone either way.
With the doubles gold in hand, it was on to the prestigious singles event, and Solja wasted no time in beginning her battle towards the podium.
By the finest of margins she overcame Poland’s Natalia Bajor, going the full 7-game distance and clutching tight games 13-11 and 11-9 to bounce back from 3-2 behind to close out a very nerve-wracking encounter.
The next round would give her no rest either, as she faced yet another enduring 7-game match, this time against Portugal’s Fu Yu – the 2019 European Games champion.
It was a strong start for Solja, who soared to an early lead, winning the first 3 games and asserting a strong position in the match. Fu was far from done, knuckling down to level at 3-3, but a strong refocus and adjustments from Solja allowed her to halt the momentum and take the final game 11-4, ending Fu’s comeback hopes and advancing into the semifinal stage.
With a medal guaranteed, the matches were only getting tougher. In the semifinal Solja overcame a spirited and in-form Elizabeta Samara in 6 games, setting up a finals showdown with her own doubles partner and teammate Shan Xiaona.
It was an awkward start for both players, very familiar with each other’s game styles, in one of the most important matches of their careers.
Solja capitalized early off her heavy topspin rotation and exceptional fifth ball attack placements, locking up Shan on her traditional penhold backhand side in the corner, before unleashing devastating down the line forehands.
While the tactfulness and steady offense from Solja was proving pivotal in her gaining control of the match, she was also able to match the formidable speed of Shan’s attacking game in the rallies, returning even some of the fastest forehand attacks her opponent could offer.
It certainly looked like Solja was quickly gaining the upper hand, sealing the first three games in her favor, and just one away from a gold medal, in what would be her first ever Women’s Singles crown at the European Champs.
In the 4th, Shan changed her approach up, opting to play a more passive control game. She steadied the pace in the rallies and looked for placements over all-out speed.
Knowing there was no room to allow for any further moves from Shan, a focused and determined Petrissa Solja returned to the table for the 5th game, and she executed her game plan with perfection.
In the blink of an eye she held an 8-0 lead, looking confident as ever. A quick towel break and a deep breath as she held match point at 10-2, and Solja finished the job.
Europe Cup Champion in both 2018 and 2019, and now the 2020 European Champion in Women’s Singles. The gold medals continue to pile up for Petrissa Solja, we couldn’t be more proud of her – an outstanding role model for all young women in sport, and we know there are more amazing career titles to come!
Heartiest congratulations to Peti from Team JOOLA!